Tuesday 16 January 2018

Former schoolteacher (74) who defrauded Eddie Rockets of €135,000 avoids jail

John Carlos was addicted to online poker
John Carlos was addicted to online poker

A former Galway schoolteacher who led a “remarkably ordinary life” until he became addicted to online poker has avoided jail for defrauding an Eddie Rockets restaurant of €135,000.

John Carlos (74), who was also a part-time accountant, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to forging signatures on cheques, altering amounts on cheques and stealing money from his former employer, Eddie Rockets franchise owner Peter Fortune, on dates between 2005 and 2008.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring sentenced him to three years but suspended it in full on condition that he keeps the peace for three years.

She said there had been “a significant abuse of trust” and that there was “no reality that any of the money will be repaid”.

A probation report showed Carlos was at low risk of re-offending and has not gambled since he was caught.

Judge Ring noted that his family life and reputation are “in ruins” but said he is the “author of his own misfortune”.

The court heard that Carlos, of Bolands Court, Gort, Co Galway, had been a highly-respected retired school teacher and accountant in Bray, County Wicklow until he became a “hopeless and deeply addicted gambler”.

Garda Nevin McCormick told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that Carlos had been doing accountancy work for Eddie Rockets fast food chain in the late 1990s.

Peter Fortune, who was operating a franchise of Eddie Rockets in Stillorgan, decided to hire Carlos as an accountant, having known him for over 30 years.

Their business relationship began in 1999, when Mr Fortune employed Carlos as his financial controller and later auditor.

Mr Fortune agreed to let Carlos become a signatory on the company's cheques from Permanent TSB bank.

Carlos was paid €250 a week cash in hand plus the use of a phone and some cash bonuses.

In September 2008, Mr Fortune got a letter from Revenue seeking a tax audit. He realised something was wrong and fired Carlos when he discovered he was not a qualified auditor.

Mr Fortune hired an external firm of auditors who discovered that a large amount of suspicious cheques had been signed between 2005 and 2008.

Mr Fortune was shown the cheques and said some of the signatures purporting to be his were not genuine, while others were his, but the amount had been altered.

Carlos' bank account showed numerous amounts going to the Paddy Power online poker website.

In April 2011, Carlos called in voluntarily to Blackrock Garda Station and admitted defrauding his employer via dozens of cheques, totalling €135,000.

He told gardaí that he had lost about €150,000 gambling and had run into considerable debt. He was remorseful for what he had done but could not afford to repay the money.

The court heard that he now survives on a pension of about €220 per week. He gives €150 to his wife and lives on the remaining €70.

Counsel for Carlos, Patrick Gageby SC, said his client's gambling has caused substantial fallout in his family and he is now separated from his wife of 27 years.

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